Policy brief

Consultation Open: Principles on Freedom of Expression and Information and Persons with Disabilities

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19 Dec 2016




There are more than 1 billion people in the world (14% of the world’s population) living with a disability.

Persons with disabilities face numerous barriers: social exclusion, stigma, discrimination, and other violations of their rights in societies around the globe. These barriers to inclusion and acceptance in society are both physical and attitudinal, as well as legal and economical. The correlation between disability and poverty as a result of these barriers has also been widely documented. 

Efforts to improve protection of the human rights of persons with disabilities have been underway for several decades. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), in force since May 2008, has been welcomed by many as a defining international treaty, which recognises the human rights of persons with disabilities. More recently, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, agreed by UN Member States in August 2015, require states to take further action and direct attention to addressing the needs of persons with disabilities. International standards also recognise that freedom of expression and information – a fundamental human right – is central to the successful implementation of states’ obligations to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities. 

Despite these advancements, specific measures to be taken by states and other duty bearers to ensure that persons with disabilities can fully realise their right to freedom of expression and information have not yet been explicitly set out. Regrettably, this issue has been largely absent in the standard setting of the Human Rights Committee, and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD Committee) is yet to address the issue in all its complexity. 

ARTICLE 19 believes that there is a need to fill this gap at a normative and policy level, and, to do so, we embarked on a process to develop a dedicated set of principles on this subject. Our aim is that these Principles will provide a one-stop-shop, where key requirements for ensuring that persons with disabilities can fully exercise their right to freedom of expression and information on an equal basis with others are articulated.

The first draft of the Principles was initially discussed with a group of international freedom of expression and media experts at a meeting in London. To ensure the relevance of the Principles and broad ownership of them by all stakeholders, ARTICLE 19 is now inviting all interested parties to discuss and comment on the draft Principles.

The public consultation on the draft will last from December 2016 - February 2017. The final version of the Principles will be launched following these consultations in early 2017.

We hope that the final Principles will be used in national, regional and international advocacy to improve the protection of freedom of expression for persons with disabilities around the world.

During the consultation period, ARTICLE 19 will also run a series of blogs exploring the issues addressed in the draft Principles in a greater detail. If you are interested in writing a blog, please do get in touch!

The Principles can be accessed and commented on online at http://consultfreexp4pwd.org/, or you can comment on the PDF below and email your comments to us at legal@article19.org.

We look forward to hearing from you!